Thursday, 22 December 2005

Haj: Accident Insurance Scheme For Indian Hajis

December 22, 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 22: More than a lakh Indian Hajis currently on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia are eligible for an accident compensation scheme which includes cash and baggage loss allowance.
Only those Hajis visiting the holy shrines in Makkah and Madina through the Central Haj Committee are eligible for the newly-introduced "compensation" scheme. About a lakh Hajis are enrolled every year through the Haj Committee and another 50,000 visit the holy places through private tour operators.
Since Muslim religious scholars are divided over the legality of "insurance cover" for pilgrims, the Central Haj Committee has named the scheme as "accident compensation". The Central Haj Committee has collected Rs 76 from each of the Hajis this year as premium to provide the insurance cover. However, the Hajis have not been informed about the deduction of the premium from the money they had paid to the Committee towards cost of travel and board.
Central Haj Committee chief executive officer Abdur Rasheed Mir told this correspondent from Mumbai that they had not publicised the "compensation scheme" lest it invited the wrath of the Muslim clergy. "Muslim religious leaders have different opinions on the insurance cover. Some say it is legal while others argue that it is un-Islamic. So we have named it as a compensation cover," he pointed out.
Under the scheme, a Haji who dies in an accident (road or fire or stampede) is eligible for compensation. Even deaths in subversive activities are covered under the scheme. The compensation ranges from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 3 lakh depending on the age of the pilgrim. Hajis below 50 years are eligible for Rs 3 lakh and those above 65 years of age will get Rs 1 lakh.
The Haj Committee will refund up to 2000 Saudi Riyals (about Rs 25000) in case of cash loss and 500 Riyals in case of theft or loss of baggage. Rasheed said Hajis are also compensated by an non-governmental organisation in Jeddah.
AP State Haj Committee chairman Ghouse Mohiuddin said they had introduced the compensation scheme, particularly baggage and cash loss, to help the Indian pilgrims in alien land. "We do not want our Hajis to suffer. Our compensation will help them to buy clothes and food in case of emergency," he said.
Most of the Hajis prefer the Haj Committee to private travel agents because they get concessional air fare and better accommodation in Saudi Arabia. Those going through the Haj Committee will get assistance of volunteers (khadim) and religious guides (Mu'allim) both in Mecca and Madina.
The basic travel quota of 10,000 US dollars is not applicable to Hajis using the services of private travel agents. The enhanced forex will help the pilgrims eat in restaurants. Earlier, as Hajis were allowed restricted forex, they used to carry with them rice, dhall, oil and dried meat for cooking. Now they can visit the holy shrines with less luggage.

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